There’s Room for You

Christmas AloneAs we consider Christmas, I’d like to remind you that there is room for you close to God’s heart. He desires a relationship with us and awaits your reciprocal desire for Him. His extension of love by giving Jesus Christ as our deliverer is the greatest expression of love He could show.

Christmas alone 2This time of year can feel cruel to many people. A time when love, laughter, and Christmas cheer is promoted, many feel lonely and isolated. There are so many stories that could be shared as to why, yet I’d rather focus on how to remedy this condition.

I received a Christmas card telling of someone dear to me who is facing consequences for their addiction to gambling. It is heartbreaking to see how families of those habituated to some life-dominating problem are drawn into the sad drama of someone else’s poor choices. We feel helpless, and if untaught, victimization can settle in. As a friend or family member, we may want to standby and spectate, or facilitate–further complicating the problem.

DENIAL

What can I do? Step 1 is to stop denying that there is a very real problem that may need some tough love and boundaries placed. You can make a choice for yourself.  These good choices can help you get out of God’s way so that the other person can see their need, and this “love” may bring them to the end of their trail. This may sound hurtful but it works similarly to the process of salvation with God. Until someone comes to the end of their human abilities and resources and states “I give up, help me!” they will not become a true believer. When denial ends, then salvation can begin. This soul-transaction only occurs for those who desire it and are desperate enough to humble themselves and cry out to God to save them.

A word of caution concerning boundaries. Boundaries can be misused and turn into a cruel form of punishment if not properly handled. Having a mentor/counselor who can objectively help prevent further complicating issues is a good idea. Boundaries are not to be used to alienate someone, rather they are designed to increase your ability to love one another. A great resource on understanding boundaries are the various boundary books by Henry Cloud & John Townsend.  “We do not set boundaries to anesthetize our life, we set them in order to build love, honesty and freedom in our relationships.” ~ Henry Cloud.

Desperation or InspirationDESPERATION

Often times the spouse, family member, or friend of someone struggling in relationships prolongs their own journey toward freedom by not understanding their part in the process. They hold on to offenses rendered and become bound in unforgiveness and possibly contempt. But no matter what offenses have come to you, it is not worth missing out on a relationship with your Heavenly Father, who loves you dearly.  I pray that at the apex of your heart’s expression of pain, you will break and fall at His feet and allow Him to help you. That is the entire reason for which Jesus came. Giving you, your family members, friends and all, the possibility of being set free from what is dominating the heart. Inspiration from God is a better choice than desperation.

My own sin keeps me separated from God and others. We are in constant warfare between heaven and earth in the spiritual realm (John 10:10). Can you identify? I truly can. Jesus, while sinless, faced battles with Satan and He told us this would be part of our journey too. Those who’ve been enlightened through God’s Word can recognize this truth. Those who live without knowledge or desire for God are bound and cannot discern why. The angry tumult of the soul affects all people at some point, yet many do not understand what they are experiencing. Receiving forgiveness is needed and then, in turn, forgiving others is necessary; the Holy Spirit will enable you to forgive as you grow in Him.

As a result of the miracle of Christmas, we can truly forgive—and what a powerful miracle that is! Christ’s coming and His subsequent death for our sin, His victorious resurrection back to life, and then giving us the Holy Spirit to live within us makes this all possible.

Christmas GiftAnytime we face a difficulty in life it is God’s opportunity to bring us to Himself. Have you found this to be true as well?

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” These words are recorded in John 16:33 and you may wonder what Jesus was really saying. To understand this relationship, we must have a proper perspective and see that we were not created to dwell here alone, but rather in relationship to our true Father now and for eternity. The Father’s desire is closeness and oneness with you; our gift from Him is comfort and peace. He provides everything needed for that to happen, yet so few choose this relationship. Why?

Our fallen nature works against submission to God. We, through self-will and our sin-nature, oppose God. It’s our choice to humble ourselves and walk with Him, and this is contrary to everything we understand from a humanistic perspective. We strive to do this on our terms, by self-effort. This results in someone or something other than God sitting on the throne of our heart and His rightful place is given to another.

DISCOVERY

Our human perspective is to live for ourselves and our own pleasure, naturally. When Christ comes to invade our world, many are offended by that, reject Him, and suffer the consequences; temporal and eternal. But those who will become like a little child and believe that He is who He claimed to be and are willing to humble themselves to receive Him, they gain true abundance in this life. This, in turn, provides freedom from sin, including addictions — which are a false source of comfort or relief.

Christmas Bible and CoffeeGod’s Word is the primary source from which understanding and oneness with God comes. Anyone struggling with loneliness will find themselves filled with peace once a relationship is developed and the power of God’s Word is applied. It works every time I am tempted toward dwelling in loneliness.

This Christmas, will you Make Room in your heart to receive Him? Are you willing to lay your life down, just as He did for you? The abiding joy He gives, the peace that passes all understanding, and God’s love will overtake the inner turmoil. Pray and ask Him for help you overcome the obstacles in your heart. There is room at the cross for you… will you come?

Photo Credit: Google Images

Music Link: Make Room (feat. Matt Maher) Casting Crowns

Are you Offended?

Offended 9Do you realize that Jesus spoke about offenses because He knew it would be a major obstacle for each one of us, and what we do with an offense will determine the strongholds we allow in our life? Someone experiencing turmoil in their soul will have a trail of crumbs leading to an offense.

Our Attitude, the posture of our heart, is so important when it comes to how we interact with others. Our thoughts, determine how we respond to what comes our way. On any given day we can become offended, it all depends on what’s happening in our soul.

Everyday Offenses
We all have the opportunity to react to people who rub us the wrong way or treat us disrespectfully. If we are not careful, we can develop an offended spirit; everything someone says offends us, we take it personally and allow it to turn over and over again in our minds. This is the playground of our enemy; Satan loves to bring suspicion, fear, and pride into our hearts. A freeing place to live is learning to recognize that you can control your thoughts, and what you will allow to control you. Jesus said, “offenses will come but woe unto those through whom they come.” (Matthew 18:7)

Contempt
Have you been dealt with contemptuously? Homes with addiction are breeding grounds for contempt. Lying is a given, abuse is common, scapegoats are necessary – they are created to handle the blame and feelings of shame. The large elephant consuming the space, time, and poor relational health is ignored with hopes that it will just leave; but it won’t.Offended 3

John and Julie Gottman have done extensive work over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability, they list contempt as one of the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in determining factors in marriage failure.

Contempt is not easily understood, and it comes forth in various ways. Disrespect, scoffing, sarcasm, an attitude of indifference or accusation, are traits of a contemptuous heart (Matthew 12:34).

 Dan Allender’s book The Wounded Heart gives a good understanding of what contempt is in Chapter 3. He points out: “… contempt serves a person entrapped there in four ways: It diminishes our shame, it deadens our longings, it makes us feel in control, and it distorts the real problem. Contempt is complex and often hard to see. It sometimes masquerades as conviction; other times is seems like righteous indignation.” 

Overcoming OffenseSOLUTIONS
STEP 1: Forgiveness – An important step in being successful in dealing with offense is to be able to forgive those who have offended you. It is a journey, and the power of God’s Word at work in your heart is crucial (Hebrews 4:12). His Word has the power to reveal what you need to see and it will retrain your brain to think rightly and help you to avoid remaining a victim of the circumstance.

Unless you can arrive in a steady place of forgiveness, letting go of the offense, and building good guardrails you will not be able to proceed to step 2 properly. “Forgiveness gives me boundaries because it unhooks me from the hurtful person, and then I can act responsibly and wisely. If I am not forgiving them, I am still in a destructive relationship with them…” – Dr. Henry Cloud

STEP 2: Truth in Love
People who treat others with contempt should be confronted about what they are doing. Share specifically what it is that you are seeing. In order for someone to work on themselves they need a clear picture of what you perceive the problem to be. This gives them the choice to take corrective action or not.

Offended 8When someone treats you with contempt it is your responsibility to set boundaries, and be prepared for the possible consequences. When someone has been accustomed to scapegoating or blaming another and you are no longer available for that, this new approach will likely anger them. Your willingness to confront an issue will be very difficult for them to receive.

If you plan to confront someone about their contempt toward you, it is wise to have a support group, Counselingaccessible pastor or counselor, and prayer team in place for emotional support before doing so. To go through the process of confrontation is very difficult and you can easily become overwhelmed and want to give up because of the anger, accusations and rejection you will suffer.

Along with the ensuing attack from those you confront, you will also face a tremendous battle from Hell. Satan does not want people freed from offense – that is his trap and deceptive way of holding them captive. This is why before confronting sin, you need to examine yourself so as to be free of these things yourself, walking in the Light (I John 1:7) and having your heart cleansed by Christ. Our attempt must be in a Christ-like manner even though we fall short of His precise actions, do not let that keep you from bringing clarity and potential healing into your situation. Be sure to pray also, as God may soften their heart and they could receive your words of truth in love and with grace change.

STEP 3: Reconciliation May Not Happen

fenceBy ridding offense from your heart, you place yourself in a position to relate in a healthy way. Family relationships are for a lifetime and worth the effort but it may take time to see change occur. These are the most difficult because of the history and pain involved, and some will choose not to let it go. Patience, caring and love with boundaries are necessary to endure with stability and strength in God, while each one works out their own heart issues (Philippians 2:12-13).

Is Someone offended at Christ in you?

In John chapters 14, 15, 16, and 17, Jesus has intimate discourse with his beloved disciples (place yourself there as you read). Among other things, Jesus tells His disciples that He is sharing these things so that they will not be offended when someone hates them because of Him.

Jesus went on to tell them they would face persecution and have trouble in this world because they chose to follow Him. Not only did the religious leaders of the day treat believers in Christ with contempt, but the Roman authorities wanted to kill them; their lives were under constant threat. Family members also betrayed them because of fear, some because they did not want to obey Christ’s teaching. Some were simply offended with God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:10 that many shall be offended and shall betray one another and shall hate one another.

For you, it may be that your family rejects you because of your walk with Christ. Your obedience and love for God will be tested and it will determine your ability to stand for Christ and His testimony of life within you. When our family becomes an idol over God, then God cannot be Supreme (Luke 14:26). Your family may want to control your level of commitment to God and despise you for choosing Him over them. Fear is a big motivator when it comes to our family members. At times, your godly zeal exposes them to their own hearts of indifference toward God. The reasons are not as important as your response to their behavior. Often times people get caught in between an offended person and another party. Someone can react to a concern you express in genuine care, and you may find yourself being falsely accused. Don’t cower with the fear of man and their spin on your situation, stand firm and remember Jesus said this would happen. Receive encouragement by reading these chapters in John; read them over and over for a week or two and see how differently you end up thinking.

person-731467__340[1]When you are experiencing a contemptuous attitude, withdrawing for a season until there is time for reflection, and the Holy Spirit to work, can be helpful. When I think wrongly or say something inappropriate to someone, the Holy Spirit is faithful to convict me and I attempt to make it right with them. Be discerning here as well, because you can over-apologize and diminish the work of the Holy Spirit. If you have spoken truth in love, then stand upon that. Do not waiver due to fear and false guilt but be firmly committed to a godly solution. This is why God’s Word and good counsel is so important for each of us.

What you give your mind to does affect your brain and your actions, or reactions. Do you need faith? Read God’s Word and get yourself into a position of faith and obedience to God. Psalm 119:165 says Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing shall offend them. Let this be your goal as you commend your soul (mind, will and emotions) to God.

Recommended Reading:
A great book on handling offense is, The Bait of Satan, by John Bevere. The book is loaded with biblical principles to help mature us in this area.

Photo Credit: Google Images, Pixabay

Flee Sexual Immorality!

guy w phone

I was fearful, afraid to broach the subject, so nervous inside, my stomach filled with acid, my heart pounded and I wondered how I could possibly confront this. I have been through this so many times before; previous attempts at trying to deal with the problem have failed. But what IS the problem?! It’s so elusive; I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’ve been told I’m a bit crazy, suspicious, going overboard… “relax; maybe some medication will help you chill out a bit“. Why try? Avoid– that’s it! I’ll just lay low and pray and hopefully, time will fix all of this. Yes, don’t think you have to do everything. Lots of people have problems… you’re blowing things out of proportion. Remember last time you said something and it turned into a huge war? The kids think I’m going crazy too. What’s wrong with me? Do I have a mental problem? Maybe I am going crazy? Help…

These thoughts are common among those in relationship with someone who has a secret. Secrecy is what keeps sin alive.

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality… Are you lashing out in anger at those around you when asked a question? Are you isolating, turning inward? Using your device (phone) in order to avoid others? Do you see your indifference toward life; toward others? No depth in meaningful conversation, have you become unthankful, unholy, defiled? Have your self-centered lusts blinded you? This warning is written in love for your soul, urging you to flee and become free.

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

fist

Spouse, parent, child… UNDERSTAND that fits of anger are normal for those who continue to harbor a hidden sinful life. When you press on something that touches the secret of one whose heart has been damaged, get ready for pushback, blame, and skilled manipulation. Some have honed this so well they can intimidate you into thinking they are innocent in the midst of their fits. They want you to back off, acting like you are the cause for their anger. Remember, they are responsible for their anger and steps to healing. Satan loves this drama and scornfully laughs, delighting in the deceptive work of his hands.

family standing on brown grass

IDOLATRY: Someone who continues to indulge in selfish pleasure rather than serving God, and their family, is an idolater. A sexually impure person is covetous. Short of repentance, they will face judgment and reserve their place in hell forever. Think of that; a person who is willing to be forever separated from God and those they love! Why? Because they loved their sin more!

So, what can I do? First, PRAY for someone caught in the web of sexual immorality; ask God to give them godly sorrow (delineated in 2Corinthians 7:9-11) so they will repent. Prayer will also give you spiritual authority to stand strong upon God’s Word while walking through the battlefield you’re in. It will give you the ability to love their soul while hating the sin they’re involved with. Secondly, speak the truth in love, confront with God’s Word (Ephesians 4:15). Don’t coddle sin in any form; sin must be destroyed, completely rooted out and revealed; brought into the light (I John 1:7). Like the serpent it is, the head must be severed allowing the twisting body to die. The only way someone will become free is to hate the sin the way God does.

Ephesians 5:5 (ESV) For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

It is heartbreaking to see families torn apart by sin; it is happening all around us. Whether you’re the one who’s been hiding sin or the betrayed party(s), respond to God. God will avenge all unrighteousness. Rather than hold unforgiveness in your heart, get before God and ask Him to help you, and receive godly counsel on how to walk in forgiveness. It will be a hard road, but worth it. Whether the marriage survives infidelity or not, forgiveness will still be your issue to pursue.  Betrayal in any form is painful and will greatly affect you if you do not come to a place of forgiveness and wholeness.

Romans 12:19 (ESV) Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

The Book of Proverbs says that a fool only expresses their own opinion and does not want to listen to wise counsel. In Proverbs, chapters 4-6, there is strong counsel about staying away from situations that will lead to sexual sin. What we allow to enter our hearts, and then ponder, think about and entertain, will determine our actions. That is why we are told to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 (KJV) Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.

EDUCATION on SEX:

Masturbation is sin, no matter what your own thinking, school sex-ed class, or a therapist may tell you. Sexual pleasure was created by God for a husband and wife only and within the covenant of marriage. Self-sex will corrupt you in several ways:

1.  You are deceived in thinking it’s harmless and you become a deceiver to your spouse by engaging in self-sex. If you are single, you are developing a wrong view of the gift of sexuality, it was not designed for idolatrous self-gratification. For others, they resort to this for self-soothing but find it to be further bondage, entrapping them in their past suffering.

2. Sexual intimacy involves giving; when you’ve trained your mind to be a taker/receiver of pleasure only, this will grow and take you down a very dark path (read below). You’ve changed the purpose of sexual relationship and will pay a great price for that.

3. You betray your spouse by not sharing sexual intimacy with her/him. The hormones God designed for bonding within marriage are crucial to the success of being one; physical and spiritual oneness is the only way to truly know God’s perfect plan. When one party brings a “stranger” into the marriage bed it becomes defiled. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Hebrews 13:4. You end up “bonding” to the images you watch and you cannot serve two masters. You WILL be mastered by the images unless you renounce and flee from your sin.

4. You become spiritually impotent. Your compromised position will give your enemy (workers of darkness, demons) a foothold in you, forfeiting the authority of God in your life. This impotence will be seen in a lack of biblical leadership and the inability to love your spouse.

5. You’ll become physically impotent. You will need perverse sexual interactions in order to fulfill your lusts. If you are sexually habituated, you have perhaps unknowingly rewired your brain. You’ve addicted yourself to porn and your body no longer functions as God designed it to. (Good news is that you and change the wiring, see RESOURCES)

6. You will reap what you sow. Read Matthew 5:27-30, Hebrews 13:4, Romans 1:26-27, 1Corinthians 6:18.

There is HOPE. God has wonderfully designed us with hormones for sexual relationship, but when taken outside of the boundaries He established, these work against you. This is where sowing & reaping comes to bear. By restructuring the physiological brain, you can either become free or go deeper into destruction. By habitually indulging in pornography, people turn into devils, monsters of iniquity and many do not understand how they got there. God will not be mocked, flee as He warns. God sets captives free. But it takes action on your part.

Sin is incremental by nature, the downward spiral over time takes people to places they never imagined they would go. Ongoing sexual sin takes a soul into the places we see in our nation’s headlines. It should not be difficult to put two-and-two together: childhood sexual abuse, human sex-trafficking industry, rape, serial murder, sexual abuse of boys and girls in religious circles and the film and music industry… the wretched list on parade is endless. This downward spiral draws habituated people into one of three main areas of abuse toward others: sodomy, bestiality, and pedophilia — a sexual lust for children.

Statistics indicate those sexually molest children, first addicted their brain to pornography. As the physical brain changes so does the desire for more deviant stimuli to get the same “high”. You have a choice. The temptation to lust after pre-pubescent children to get your fix is diabolical. Flee! Satan delights in shame and the destruction of innocents. You become his fool; a pawn in his hand. You become a self-centered idolator and lose genuine concern for the well-being of others, choosing to satisfy the wicked lust that drives you. Why continue being tormented when Christ offers you freedom? The mind differs from your brain, it is “seated” in your heart according to scripture. This means you can change your mind, which will determine your actions and set you free from spiritual bondage. You can change your brain, once you decide to change your mind.

Look where sexual immorality has taken you and what you are doing to those around you… it affects everyone; no one is an island. …and getting married will not solve your problem, it will only pull more people into the pit with you. You alone must choose.

Just as the fool has said in his heart, “there is no God…” (Psalm 14:1), someone who professes to know Jesus Christ and continues in sexual sin, is like the proverbial fool. One day the revelation will come on the deception they lived under and what the pleasure of sin delivers (read Proverbs Chapter 4 & 5). Sin changes everything!

Let us all wake up and turn from any known sin in our lives, large or small. Fornication (pornea) of any kind will bring consequences, if not sooner, then later, as it did in my life. Satan, the master deceiver, comes along making shame and guilt appear larger than Truth and God’s forgiveness. His goal is to entrap people and finally, with glee, usher them into Hell for eternity. 

If we could see into the spiritual realm active here on earth, it would be astounding to know what our loving Father is constantly protecting us from! We must gain a healthy reverence for God and face the reality of what His inspired Word says about sexual immorality. Hate the sin and stay far from it! Become grateful, thank Him, fear Him, renounce your sin and repent with godly sorrow. He desires to set you free.

For further learning on overcoming sexual immorality go to RESOURCES.
Photo Credit: Canva, Family/Rodolfo Quirós/Pexels.

A Symphony of Surrender

He walked onto the stage, bowed, stepped up on the podium, tapped the stand and raised his baton… they were ready; all eyes were looking up to him. The conductor had their attention.

This is a beautiful description of a life surrendered to God, our Chief Conductor. Do you know that He is ready and waiting? For some, it’s performance season–you’re ready to go, it’s what you’ve been in training for; for others it’s waiting, allowing others to catch up, but all are practicing for the grand finale. Through various circumstances (James 1:2-4) [1], He is fitting you to play your part in the Symphony He is conducting.

Consonance is used in music to describe accord or agreement; a harmony of sounds. Wikipedia says, “Consonance is associated with sweetness, pleasantness, and acceptability; dissonance is associated with harshness, unpleasantness, or unacceptability.”

SadFive years ago marked a turning point in my life; my symphony of dissonance was revealed. My emotional world was falling apart, I was desperate and needed help; I ended up temporarily separating from those I loved most to find it. I couldn’t see it then but it was the beginning of something good; it began my difficult journey from there to where I am today. It has involved great loss, pain, and grief of soul; I did not know it was possible for a human being to experience this, and still live. Yes, I had been through various types of suffering prior to this point; much of it physical pain in my body. But the greater pain was the inner pain of my heart, aware that something was wrong, and yet I did not understand how to make it right. Thankfully, our Good Father brought me through it by teaching me, humbling me, and showing me what to do. Now, I am making joyous music for Him.

Perhaps you feel like the suffering you are experiencing right now is overwhelming, David felt that way. When we read Psalm 143 we see in verse 4 he says, “Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.” Like David we need God’s guidance and help, we must cry out to Our Father (Matthew 6:9-13). This is where God meets us; especially in our distress.

Throughout my journey, I would have to say that without the tests, trials, and temptations (James 1:2-15) I’d have very little to offer to anyone who is suffering in this deep interior way. By God’s grace and merciful love to me, He has truly taken the ashes of my past and turned them into beauty. Only our God can do that. He has taken the pretty-woman-1509956__480parched places and made them into streams of living water. There is no way to fully thank God for the riches of His goodness to me; I’m grateful and desire to live harmoniously with Him. Romans 5:3-5 says, More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (ESV).

DESIRE
The first step in becoming a member of God’s Orchestra is developing a desire to become a part of what He is doing. He is pulling together a people that are making a lovely symphony of music for Him; yes there are squeakers among us, and loud basses playing at the wrong time perhaps, but the Conductor has a way of shaping us into something beautiful. Joining up involves learning from the Great Master and being willing to surrender to His leading.

PRACTICE
We’ve all heard the old adage: Practice makes perfect. Realizing that we will never be perfect this side of Heaven, we only need to practice becoming like the One who is perfect — Jesus the Christ, our Messiah, and Savior. Being in-tune, a ready player in God’s orchestra requires that we prepare ourselves for the lifting of His baton.
I found this excellent example of how the Holy Spirit works in us when we are prepared: “All musicians in an orchestra must be proficient with their individual parts, but a conductor of an orchestra has to learn entire scores because he or she functions as a musical traffic director, cueing musicians so they enter or leave the musical highway at the right time.”[2] In many ways this is how God uses our lives as we are surrendered to Him. It is so rewarding to live under His direction, guiding, leading and anointing, in whatever He has orchestrated.

DETERMINATION
orchestra-2098877__480Have you been to a symphony recently? I recall a fun school outing with our four children in Lake Placid to see the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra perform. It was a “School Performance” and we met up with some fellow homeschooling friends to attend and have a picnic. I was so impressed with the skill and excellence with which they performed; united as one, in purpose and determination.

Our level of determination, undergirded by our willing surrender to the Conductor, reveals our level of participation. People are looking for consonance, they want to know that there are people representing God who are united and in harmony with one another. Our determination in this task is a key factor as to whether we will be authentic ambassadors for our King.

We will face tests along the way. In the Bible, we are warned and encouraged to endure through many trials (1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV). [3] We are reminded that this life WILL involve suffering. Jesus told us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV).

LOOK UP
sky-2667455__480Do not lose heart. Look up to the Master Conductor, He will guide and direct you. As stated earlier, He will give you direction onto and off the highway at the right time. How you ask? By knowing the score and the script found in the Bible. When we have desired, practiced and determined to live by God’s Words we have placed ourselves in a position to look up and have His nod, His eyes looking at us, letting us know whether to go ahead or wait. What a treasure we have in being a part of His Symphony!

[1] Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)

[2] Leading the Orchestra> Learning Specific Scores https://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-a-conductor-of-an-orchestra-actually-do.htm

[3] Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. I Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)
Photo Credit: Pixabay

The Clinic

foot-1357881__480Please don’t abort your baby; I’ll adopt your child…  REALLY? As I talked to these young women facing so much turmoil with their choice to abort their baby, I would often repeat the line that I had heard so many other pro-lifers say. On this particular day, as I stood outside the doors of the abortion clinic, those words hit me and I thought, Wow, would I really adopt her child? That is quite a commitment.

That’s how the journey, for me, into the world of adoption began.

I was raised in Central Wisconsin, the seventh of eight children in a hard-working farm family. We were not given to sophisticated speech; as a matter-of-fact, my vocabulary was quite plain until I met and married my husband, Dale. My family actually practiced a simple biblical principle, even though at the time we could not have quoted the verse. Jesus said, Let your yes, be yes and your no, no (Mt. 5:37). It simply means that if you say something, then mean it; do it or don’t say it. Growing up, it really bothered me if people would say things they were going to do and then never do it. I prided myself on being a woman of her word. Well, as I found out, pride can get you into trouble.

Standing there that day on the sidewalk outside the downtown Milwaukee abortion clinic I began thinking about what I had just said to this young woman being so rapidly escorted into the clinic. The nice sounding name for this particular abortion clinic was, “Women’s Health Center,” even though the baby’s health was in grave danger in this Center. The reality was each mother’s soul would be forever marked by the decision to destroy the life God had placed in her womb (Psalm 139:13-16[1]), and the child that God created would never fulfill the destiny He intended for him or her.

As a young person in high school my first encounter with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision came through my friend at school. She never told me directly, but through another friend, I person-409127_1280.jpgfound out that she had an abortion. I didn’t know much about prenatal development, or abortion for that matter, but I sensed a dark foreboding when this informant told me. I felt sad for my friend. At that time I knew the church my family attended would have taken a strong stance against abortion and, therefore, I would have known it to be a major sin and very wrong. Because our family was devoted in our faith, I supposed this was the reason my friend never told me about it.

Now, here I stood some 17 years later, well informed about abortion and so convinced of the destruction upon the soul that I was willing to intervene and speak to the women headed for the clinic doors. I know that many women suffer the after-effects from abortion and walk through life with self contempt for having chosen this “medical option” to solve their immediate problem. The sad reality is that the medical establishment isn’t able to truly minister to the soul; only God can do that. And He is looking for Christians to extend His love and forgiveness to those needing it. This was my goal as a sidewalk counselor. The problem was, by the time they were on the sidewalk, with green-vested escorts around them, little could be said to stop the rapid push toward the clinic door.

Battle lines

The summer of 1992 in Milwaukee was a major Pro-Life summer. Being the largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee had eight abortion clinics in operation. That summer, with the help of the local Christian Radio & TV station, a group called “Missionaries to the Preborn” became well known in our county. Organized in 1990, they were committed to abolishing abortion. The mission was launched with such enthusiasm and zeal and it brought a broadly based coalition of people from various churches and diverse individuals to the cause. While motives in the hearts of people in any movement vary, for the most part, the focused goal and mission was to protect the lives of pre-born children in their mother’s womb; and to share viable options with the women involved. Like any new movement, with the variety of people involved, it became at times a mish-mash of experience, theology, and practice that at times clashed on the front lines. How to carry out this daunting task with unity was a constant struggle in the midst of our single objective and purpose to rescue of pre-born infants from death, and minister to their mother’s needs spiritually and physically. This needed to be a movement of God’s love expressed — yet misunderstanding and fear manifested itself in our actions at times. Gaining the mind of Christ (II Tim. 4:5) was a daily challenge in the midst of the brutal reality of abortion.

Many would liken our battle to that of Dr. Martin Luther King’s in the arena of civil rights; working toward liberty for all regardless of skin color.  He faced many challenges trying to convey God’s way of non-resistance in a world of violence and prejudice, often by civil authorities. So, like Dr. King, we too had to teach what Christ taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount; to love our enemies. This theology when put into practice proved to be a wonderful testimony of God’s grace, but it was not easily understood or played out in this raw and ugly environment. Emotions flared and it was difficult to portray righteous anger and loving grace in the many heated battles on these front lines.

It took months, even years, for this group to coalesce into an effective “ministry” out on the streets. Through it all, God taught us many lessons and after a few years a synergy developed that made for effective ministry. Our goal to minister was realized for the babies who were saved from death, the women who were in need of immediate help and later soul-healing after abortion. It was rewarding to hear the stories from the Mom’s who gave birth and the adoptive parents who were thankful to welcome these babies into their homes. In the end, six planned-parenthood-storefroof the eight clinics closed. Focusing on the remaining clinics became a more manageable task, allowing for more focused ministry to those in need.

Planned Parenthood vs. Pro-Lifers

We came to meet many wonderful people through this difficult battle for life.  At the height of this localized war, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, along with the two other remaining clinics, filed a federal lawsuit naming 51 people as conspirators/defendants in the complaint.  Some involved were people who had an effective ministry speaking to women; they faithfully stood on the sidewalks through very extreme weather conditions to offer their assistance. Some were preachers who would preach as people passed on the way to the clinic doors. The group of pastors was called, “ Pastor’s Emergency League” (PEL), following the name, example and efforts of German pastor, Dietrich Bonheoffer, who spoke out against the atrocities of the Nazi’s during World War II. Our friend, David Liebherr, founder of the Milwaukee area PEL and my husband were part of this group.  So when the lawsuit was filed, their names were included as defendants. Through this legal action we became acquainted with Attorney Patti Lyman and her associates.

The lawsuit allowed PEL to put on paper and verbalize what their mission actually was. At the time, the lawsuit seemed threatening, but it turned out to be beneficial in that it helped to clarify and establish the mission and purpose for our actions. With God nothing is wasted; as Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”, we saw that happen.

Patti Lyman, and her husband Frank, became good friends to us. With the many proceedings involving this lawsuit, Patti often needed to travel from their home in Fairfax, VA to Milwaukee to handle legal matters for Dale and David and others. Dave and his wife, Karla, had eight children at this time, and the Lymans loved being a part of their family. Like Dale and me, they were unable to conceive children and while they did not pursue adoption as we did, they have been “parents” to many along the way. Patti has long been a defender of legal rights for those without a voice. In the end, the clinics lost their lawsuit and we gained legal standing with guidelines for being on the public sidewalks. Additionally, the proceedings provided a good avenue for the voice of the unborn to be heard.

Other Front Lines

During this time period Dale and I also became involved in attempting to deal with an adult porn outlet that had suddenly cropped up in a residential area near our home.  It seemed we were always involved in some type of battle… they seemed to be everywhere! Because of this, we were also pulled into the public media outlets and especially the aforementioned Christian Radio station, WVCY in Milwaukee. This station was very active in informing the public, especially the Christian base of listeners about what was happening locally and nationally concerning moral issues in our country.

The mid-nineties were a busy time for us. We were attempting to be a part of healing and hope in three areas of need. First, was our involvement in the prolife movement, second, we pioneered a new church in our suburb of West Allis and third, we were engaged in a battle against a porn store that had opened in a residential area of our community. Back then, even though pornography was available on the internet, the average person did not access porn on-line as is common now. This particular store not only sold “adult” material, but they also installed private viewing booths allowing patrons to view the videos while masturbating. This became a public health issue that we used to attempt to close the store down. With all of this on our plate, the adoption focus took a back seat for some months.

baby-718146__480Then in October of 1997, my friend at the radio station, who was an advocate for adoption, mentioned to me twin girls with special needs that needed adopting. I had told her that if I am going to become a stay-at-home Mom, I would prefer to adopt several children at once. This prompted Dale and me to seriously consider beginning the adoption process — and we did. As it turned out the twin girls were adopted by another family, but the circumstance were used by God to get our paperwork going to begin our adoption process.

Continue to next Chapter Domestic vs. International

[1] For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.